When the two teams most difficult to break down in the Indian Super League (ISL) meet on Tuesday, the most famous spectator at the Salt Lake stadium will be football legend Pele, a man who has scored over 1,200 goals.
Kerala Blasters managed nine goals in 14 games and though Atletico de Kolkata scored 16, they drew half of their league games. “We are teams that keep a decent shape when we don’t have the ball and that makes it difficult to score against us,” said Peter Taylor, the Kerala Blasters’ coach. Both teams also go into their third match on four points.
Everything points to an even contest between last year’s finalists and though stranger things have happened, Pele — who has featured in the World Cup final which saw a record seven goals — may not see a lot of goals here.
Atletico de Kolkata are set to miss a number of players. Arnab Mondal, Oftense Nato and Rino Anto are on national duty, marquee Helder Postiga is injured and Baljeet Sahni has been suspended for two games.
However, Atletico’s Spanish head coach Antonio Lopez Habas feels Pele’s presence would be a motivation for the players. “It’s a great idea in a match that is very important for us and for our fans because it is our first at home,” said Habas.
Taylor said he played 20 minutes against Pele in 1976 in a match between England and New York Cosmos. “I never got the ball off him but that was the best moment in my career. For any player, it would be the same,” said Taylor.
Pele has often said the 1970 World Cup-winning Brazil was that good because when they lost the ball only Jairzinho would stay up and everyone would fall back. It fits that the only ISL match he would be watching is between two teams who do that best.